Which segments in Omanâ€™s tourism industry is Alwan currently focusing on?
AL RAWAHI: Alwan Travel & Tourism is currently focusing on inbound, outbound, car rental, and transportation services. With regards to the inbound segment, we are focusing on people coming from Europe. We target them through exhibitions we participate in, our advertisements, our website, and search engines. With regards to the outbound segment, our target is the people here in Oman. We provide car rental services and transportation services.
What are the largest inbound markets for tourism in Oman? How successful has Alwan been in reaching out to these markets?
AL RAWAHI: For Alwan Travel & Tourism, the first largest inbound market is Italy, the second is France, then Spain, the UK, and Germany. We reach these markets through our channels, that is by participating in worldwide exhibitions and travel shows, such as the WETM (Work Experience Travel Market) in London, ITB in Berlin, ATM (Arabian Travel Market) in Dubai, as well as in Oman. We also make use of the Internet and social media sites. Our own name and reputation also help.
How has the Internet helped facilitate business throughout Omanâ€™s tourism industry? What is the overall percentage of Alwanâ€™s bookings that come in from online channels?
AL RAWAHI: The Internet helped tremendously to attract guests from the whole world, from inbound to outbound, car rental, and transportation. The Internet is becoming the tool on which everything and everyone depends on. Maybe in the future, we are not going to do advertising. Instead, we will be spending money on the Internet. If you know how to make good use of the Internet, you will get a lot of customers, as well as being able to attract the specific type of clientele you are looking for. Right now, approximately 40% of our bookings come from online sources, but I think this percentage will increase in the near future. We have some plans that I hope will increase our sales via the Internet.
What are your competitive advantages over other key players throughout the sector?
AL RAWAHI: We believe in quality. We give the best quality in the services that we provide, as we believe our customers will come back again or will talk about us. This is for us the most important thing. Also, our rates are competitive, as we offer good value for money services. Once our customers complete a trip with us, we send them a questionnaire about the services. If we find that our customer has experienced any inconvenience, we will work on it to their satisfaction. We believe to be always on time for our guests who come to Oman. Likewise, for the outbound segment, that is, whenever we send people from Oman to other countries. This can be a little difficult to control, because we rely on other companies outside of Oman. Nevertheless, we remain very competitive. This is how we remain competitive in the market.
What are Omanâ€™s competitive advantages with regards to tourism vis-Ã -vis other countries in the region such as the UAE and Qatar?
AL RAWAHI: Oman is totally different than the other countries in the region. I am not saying this just because I am Omani. Generally, the tourists coming to Oman notice that Omanis are always smiling and welcoming. Omanis are always like this. This is our tradition. In our customs, we always welcome guests. Oman is also different because we have a variety of different landscapes, such as mountains, sea, ocean, and desert. We also have wild animals such as dolphins, sea turtles, green and red turtles, wolves, etc. Oman is totally different. If you come to Oman, you will see the difference. Oman is also renowned for its peacefulness, as it has twice been recognized as the best country in the Middle East and Africa for peacefulness and safety.
Right now, approximately 40% of our bookings come from online sources, but I think this percentage will increase in the near future.
What actions are currently being taken in order to establish Oman as a tourism destination?
AL RAWAHI: I think the government still needs to work hard to promote Oman. They are doing well, as they are focusing on some markets. However, many countries still ignore the existence of Oman. When I travel and am asked where I come from and say Oman, unfortunately, the majority of the people do not know where Oman is located. I feel sorry about it, as Oman is probably one of the most beautiful countries in the Middle East. I feel the government should increase the promotion of Oman and talk to the people about our country. I know, as well, that the government is focusing on the quality, as opposed to the quantity. In the past 2 years, many entrepreneurs in the tourism sector requested the government for an increase in the number of tourists. However, Omanâ€™s tourism depends on the quality of the guests and not the quantity, so I agree with the government under this perspective.
Which segments or niches of Omanâ€™s tourism sector are showing the best opportunities for growth and development? Are expectations for number of tourist arrivals coming into Oman being met? What is your outlook for 2013?
AL RAWAHI: The best opportunities in the tourism sector are maybe the hotels, the resorts, as well as the travel companies, together with the marine activities, such as diving activities, which are needed in Oman. Also, some theme parks would be welcomed, as there are none at the moment. All of these are good potentials in the tourism sector for investment opportunities in Oman. We are expecting the number of tourist arrivals to increase by more than 30%. According to our participants in the exhibitions at the ITB Berlin, some good companies are going to come to Oman in 2013/2014. Additionally, our strategy over the Internet and social media is helping us increasing Omanâ€™s awareness, as well as the number of tourists.